Tea-Roulette and Jacket Potatoes pt2

In my day-job in IT, I had a scheduled call-out this morning in an unusual place. It’s a company staffed almost exclusively by Chinese girls.
When I arrived, I was asked to wait for a moment or so as the person I had come to see (a man), was not available yet. I was given a seat in reception and offered a drink of tea or coffee. I accepted the tea politely, and the receptionist disappeared off to get it for me.

Only after I asked, and she had disappeared (although she was still visible through a doorway, from my chair), I realised I hadn’t told her if I wanted milk or sugar or what. I don’t know why, but I decided not to mention it at this point. I would just wait and see what she brought me.
This could have been risky. It could have been earl grey, green tea, apple tea, or any number of strange other variants.

After a few mins waiting, and me watching her cross the doorway back and forth as if she were looking for something, she arrived back with my tea and a smile. She presented the tea to me in a strange round glass with no handles – much like the empty Nutella jar you can wash out and use again. It was passed to me in a very oriental way as well – much like you might pass someone a bowl of soup – held at the sides with both hands, and slight bowing of the head.

I took it from her in the same way, then relaxed into more of an English way of drinking from it – one handed, occasional slurping noises, etc.
Anyway it wasn’t bad. A bit too much milk perhaps but it was definitely tea, drinkable, and may have had a sugar added perhaps. While I don’t have sugar at home, I often prefer it at work as a lot of people are so bad at making tea it wouldn’t be drinkable without it.

Dinner tonight was jacket potatoes. I thought I’d have another go after the other night.
The remaining pre-packed potatoes are 3 days past their date, but I don’t see what can go off that quick as they’re only potatoes, so decided to take my chances.
I realised I wasn’t onto a great start after I put them in the oven and stood chatting to some of my housemates for a while, only to suddenly remember I hadn’t made the holes in them like you’re meant to.

I removed the potatoes from the oven one at a time with oven gloves on, and prodded holes in them, then went and sat at my computer. Another mistake ahoy. I’d been sat there a while when I wondered how much longer my dinner was going to take. It’s at that point I realised I wasn’t really sure when I put them in the oven.
Through a series of guesstimates, questioning how long one of my housemates had been sat in a particular chair, and trying to work out what time a tv show I didn’t know the name of, that I hadn’t really been watching, finished, and how that related to when I saw it, and when I went back to the kitchen to put the oven on – I removed them after what may have been anything from 1.25 to 2 hours.
Beans and cheese added again.

They are a lot better than a few days back when I first tried them. Cooked entirely inside, and I ate some of the skin as it was so superbly cooked.
That’s quite annoying, as now I don’t know what I did differently, and I can’t really work out an optimum time based on tonight’s, given that I’ve no idea how long they were in there.

It has proved I can cook them to a good standard though – even if I’m not sure how I did it.

pasta shells in creamy tomato sauce

Not to be disheartened by my earlier attempts at eating pasta, I decided at 21.00 tonight when I still hadn’t eaten any tea, to try some pasta again.

Last week I bought this Dolmio stuff – pasta in one bag, creamy tomato sauce in the other. You buy them separately and can mix and match as you like.

No E-numbers, no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives (says the packets they’re in). It is described as a “healthy choice meal for one”, and apparently you should check with your parents before cooking.

So, contents of tonight’s meal is:
Pasta: 200g – “My Dolmio” Pasta Shells
sauce: 150g – “My Dolmio” Creamy Tomato Sauce

Sauce contains mostly tomatoes, cream, and mascarpone cheese. Oddly enough, it also may contain traces of peanuts. Only the sauce though – there’s no such warning on the pasta itself.

It comes with good very simple directions, and as they take different times to cook in the microwave, it even tells you to cook the sauce first, and leave that to stand while you do the pasta.

It says 45 seconds for sauce and 75 seconds for sauce. Despite me having the exact same wattage microwave, I never trust microwave times, so always add on a little bit. Plus with my recent experience of pasta going cold very quickly, I thought putting it in for a bit longer might help to combat that.
I cut the corners from the packets, put the sauce in for 60, removed, and put the pasta in for 90.

There was a funny “sparkly” sound coming from the microwave during cooking. I’m not sure what it is – maybe our microwave is on the way out, because presumably if Dolmio tell me to microwave it, it’s microwavable.

All ready from microwave, into a bowl.
The sauce smells, looks, and tastes very nice. It’s a shame there’s not a bit more of it.
However, I’d forced myself to eat maybe 1/3rd of the bowl of pasta, when even a nice sauce like that couldn’t cover up just how boring pasta really is.

Reading from the ingredients, pasta = water, egg, wheat semolina and…no..that’s it. There’s literally nothing in it.
In my problem-solving, energy conserving (lazy) brain, that seems like something extra to cook/eat for no real reason.

Someone told me once during a conversation about food, that they could “live” off of just pasta. I don’t understand it. For a while as a teenager (and possibly even into my early 20’s), I “lived” off of toast. I have to say that was considerably more interesting.

Tonight’s attempt does gets bonus points for the lack of almost-all washing up. The only washing-up you end up with at the end is one bowl and a fork. That’s not bad going.

I will say it again too. The sauce was very nice. It was so nice, I was imagining what else I could put it on while I was eating it. I bet it would taste great on a nice piece of chicken.

Thinking about that, I made myself so hungry I decided to toast some hot cross buns I purchased yesterday and have them instead of the pasta.
That’s not really a proper evening meal though is it?
I didn’t think so either, so I had a snickers bar as well.
I might have one of my healthy organic yoghurts for dessert. That will make up for it.

jacket potatoes with beans and cheese

Whenever I go to The Mall, from all of their food available, I nearly always have a jacket potato. Quick, nice, and I didn’t eat them as a child.
They’re also great at music festivals, because no matter how bad you store/cook a potato, the chances of food poisoning are considerably less than with meat of some kind. Nobody dies from eating an underdone potato. Some slightly underdone potato doesn’t keep you in the toilet for the next 2 days.

That said, I’ve always found them a sod to cook.
My first attempt at this in my old flat involved me putting one in the microwave for what seemed like forever, then removing it and finding it rock hard. Repeated blasts in microwave I think resulted in it being rock hard. Possibly even harder than it was when it went in.

I discovered a while back that Tescos sell pre-cooked jacket potatoes, with cheese already in them. You warm them in the oven for 25-30mins and then eat. They’re about 80p each though, and they taste a bit odd. I don’t know what it is – maybe something to do with the cheese. They’re not as nice as properly cooked-from-fresh ones though.

Talking of Tescos, it’s only in the last few months that I’ve realised just how poor the fruit and veg is in my local supermarket.
I went in a couple of days back, went to get a baking potato, and the loose ones were all blackened, beaten to within an inch of their lives, or a funny red colour. I’m not sure if red is good or bad, but its not the colour I was expecting. The pre-packed sets of 4 potatos “for baking” looked considerably nicer, but price wise – are clearly more expensive.
I went in this morning for some pineapple juice and went to buy some apples, and the only Royal Gala or Pink Lady varieties on display were bruised. Not beaten yet, I tried a layer below, or one of the green trays behind/beneath the visible one, and found them to be going mouldy under there.
Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t all a big con to get me to buy the fancy looking pre-packed ones.

Anyway, I got my pre-packed rip-off baking potatoes a couple of days back, so thought I’d have them for my tea with a can of baked beans and some cheese. Healthy and easy enough.
I was quite disappointed to read on the packet the potatoes came in, that the average cooking time was 75mins. It was already gone 20:00 when I was looking at starting cooking. I assumed given that I have a fan-assisted oven, I could knock 10mins off of that.
If I took a shower and watched some tv, it would fly by.

Potatoes washed, spiked, and in at 20.24.
I went for my shower – took my time. Was still out by 20:50.
Wasn’t much on tv, so started looking at some random rubbish on Youtube.
Sorted some household bills.
Finally, it was 21.20. I assumed it’d definitely be done by now.
Not really sure how to check if potatoes are done, so I cut one in half with a sharp knife, and poked the inside to see if it was rock hard. It seemed soft. Then I realised I was using an ultra sharp knife, that would probably feel soft if I poked it into a raw potato.
I repeated it with a normal knife, and it felt a bit raw.
Returned to oven.
Constant checking is probably bad for it, but by 21:40 I had waited enough, and cooked or not cooked, it was coming out.

Beans and cheese added, and eaten.
It was ok. About 95% cooked through properly, which is good I guess.
Quite nice..although not quite as nice as if someone else had cooked it for me.

I’ll cook it again – I just need to find something to do for 80mins next time, and not wait til I’m hungry before I think about cooking it.

Moon cake

I didn’t actually cook this. I was somewhere yesterday where somebody offered some slices of mooncake around. I took a piece to see what it was like. It looked quite nice, and “mooncake” sounds like something hippies might cook, but it tasted absolutely revolting.

I didn’t really know what was in it at the time, but according to wikipedia, the proper description of a mooncake is:
“A Chinese pastry traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm thick. A thick filling usually made from lotus paste is surrounded by a relatively thin (2-3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.”

Just from the description, my sister said it sounded horrible.

As for tonight’s cooking, it’s better than last night’s, where I was naughty and skipped dinner entirely.
Tonight, I cooked the remainder of the oriental stir fry from the other night (froze the chicken in between). Was ok – chicken possibly slightly overcooked. Not sure I enjoyed it as much as before, but that could be because I was quite tired…probably because I missed dinner last night. I never learn.

Miss Millies

I’m very disappointed with myself today. I slunk back to my old ways of chatting on msn, downloading music, watching tv, sorting radio stuff, and not getting around to cooking anything at a decent hour.
About 22.30 I decided I was really quite hungry, and as I’m working tomorrow and need to be awake and make a good impression, I really can’t just skip dinner tonight entirely – because I know I’ll be exhausted tomorrow if I do.
Thing is, if I start to oven myself a pie and chips now, I won’t be eating for another hour.

After my oriental stir fry the other night, I froze half of the chicken that I didn’t use. I had intended to take it out the freezer this morning to thaw out in the fridge, and then cook the rest tonight in a repeat stir fry.
As anyone who knows me is well aware though, I’m never on-time for anything. In my rush to get to work this morning, I forgot to take it out the freezer, so I don’t really have anything much I can cook quickly.

So I decided to go to Miss Millies tonight for some greasy fried chicken and chips.
I normally go Thursday nights after my radio show (finishes at 22.00), but if I remember to take the chicken out the freezer tonight, then I can eat the rest of the oriental stir fry tomorrow night. Problem solved.

It has to be said that the food in there has gone right downhill in the last couple of months. There used to be a Spanish girl who worked there, and aside from having very random conversations where I didn’t understand half of what she said, and she didn’t understand half of what I said – she at least could cook some chips all the way through.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a crappy job and I wouldn’t want to work there (the girl from Spain moved onwards and upwards somewhere else), but tonight, half of the chips weren’t cooked properly, and I’m not convinced all the chicken was cooked either. They’re not even cooked by the same person so I don’t know what’s going on there.

It’s clearly a good reason to improve my cooking. Or at least go there on a different night.

No I'm not that burglar from Cambridge.